7 Survival Tips for lean times
Times are lean. That's how it feels. According to the Stears – a leading economic think tank, in nominal terms, Nigeria’s total revenue slipped from ₦11.34 trillion in 2011 to ₦8.15 trillion in 2017. Adjusting for exchange rates, revenue has shrunk from $72.75 billion in 2011 to $26.66 billion in 2017, a whopping 63% decline. You see this play out on the business streets of Nigeria as upto 80% of businesses crash and burn within the first 18 months of starting up.
So how does the average entrepreneur avoid being one of that 80%? We believe the key is to have capacity (staying power), creativity (ability to create, reinvent and innovate) & connectivity (staying connected to your ecosystem). We unpack these below into 7 things you can do to stay afloat and thrive.
1. Get creative with costs
It’s the simplest. Today, technology and easy access to information offer you many innovative ways to do things much much cheaper. Whether your business is facing challenges during lean times or it is doing just fine, the more you trim off your business expenses, the better off your business will be. There are so many ways to cut cost, including – cutting staff days (e.g. from 5 to 3 days), carpooling, sharing generator expenses, reducing power usage etc. Also, closely measuring your consumption daily or weekly will allow your become more aware of areas where you can reduce your expenses.
2. Stay in the Mind of your Market
During lean times, find innovative ways to stay in the mind of your target market. It is essential you are not out of sight and out of mind because when the economy picks up, you want to be ahead of the pack. Given its relatively cheap but limitless reach, Social Media is a wonderful avenue to stay in the mind of your market in the lean times. Thriving businesses of the 21st century take advantage of the Internet in the use of social media, viral marketing, affiliate marketing etc. In addition, leveraging influencers in your niche, holding business events and so on are also smart ways of marketing whilst monitoring your costs. All these help you stay on top of mind of the customer.
3. Diversify your Products or Services
They say necessity is the mother of Invention. In the lean times, you are forced to think of alternative ways to make money. Are there variations of your product or service you could offer? Are there other new markets, new combinations or new packages you could offer? Can you consult? Can you offer group trainings, create workbooks, online courses or sell associated products from others? Whatever option, do NOT be discouraged. Attempting new things is hard. It has limited downsides but unlimited upsides. But we will say this – DO YOUR RESEARCH. Don’t follow the crowd. Look carefully before you leap. But leap you must! That's multiplying your lines of income. Key thing is you can reinvent yourself in a short time period.
4. Invest in your People
Your staff are your biggest assets. If you invest in them, in the lean times, they are more likely to stay which is cheaper in the long run compared to hiring new people. Richard Branson said – train staff so well that they're good enough to go, and treat them right so they are happy enough to stay. Keeping staff morale high in the lean times is an investment that ALWAYS yields returns in spades. Tough times never last, but tough people do.
5. Know your Markets (better)
It’s a fact – the market is always moving. In the lean times, spend time tracking your market to decipher what will keep them loyal. Your assessments can go as deep as knowing their daily routine, phones they use, location, social media platforms they find more interesting etc – so as to discover the best way(s) to target and win your customers. The benefit? When the upturn comes around, you will be better placed to jump your competitors because you KNOW your market. You know why, how, when, where and what.
6. Seek out Trade-by-Barter (TBB) opportunities
Trading by Barter (or Bartering) is really useful when cash is a challenge. TBB allows you give value in return for value. Exchange and barter your goods or services evenly without the use of money. You can barter directly with local merchants you know or join a barter exchange geared to business. This was the way before the advent of money.
7. Invest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
When times are good, it’s a good idea to invest in CSR. CSR are also a way for businesses to give back to the community. Businesses with a strong CSR focus during good times reap benefits from its stakeholders in lean times. There are ethical, society-friendly strategies entrepreneurs can implement through their businesses for the benefit of developing their stakeholders. CSR allows you earn and grow your reputational asset and allows opens new doors you can leverage on in the lean times.
In summary, it is important to stay positive when the going gets tough. Remember that necessity is the mother of invention. You are more inventive when you are under pressure. The lean times are for the history books.
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